The New Jersey Devils have spent the entire season on the outside looking in.
They have had to play catch up since the first few games of the year, as they dropped their first seven contests before earning their first win of the season.
However, they have never given up, and were only two points behind the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference standings entering tonight’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
But it seems like having to fight just for the last playoff spot is starting to wear on the Devils, as they lost to the lowly Florida Panthers last night and then fell to the Lightning 3-0 tonight.
It was unlike their previous loss, where the Devils played sloppy hockey and beat themselves in that game. New Jersey played hard against Tampa Bay, but the Lightning were simply an all around better team tonight as they capitalized on their scoring opportunities and thwarted any of New Jersey’s. This loss raises the question of can the Devils even compete with teams that are at the upper tier of the conferences?
They are going to find out next week as they will face some of the better teams in the NHL. Luckily they are home, but it will still be tough tasks for them to earn more points as they have to battle the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Bruins next Tuesday night and that matchup will be followed by three more consecutive games against teams that are currently sitting in a playoff spot.
It will certainly be a gut check period for New Jersey, as they will be taking on better teams with more points, but the Devils will be more desperate heading into the contests and will have the home-ice advantage. Their playoff chances took a big hit with consecutive losses in the Sunshine State, but their situation still has the possibility of being substantially better this time next week. Or it could be substantially worse.